Do FPSs Make For The Best Games?
Why is the FPS is so popular and can it remain top dog?
If you were to look at the top 100 best selling games of all time you would no doubt find that many of them would appeal to the largest audiences possible. There’s a reason the likes of Mario and Dr Kawashima sell as well as they do, but there is one genre in the gaming industry that dwarfs others when it comes to collective sales. Its effects send ripples throughout the development scene and it’s a genre that has seen massive evolution and dominance since its inception, but does it make for the best games?
If you look at the high profile releases of each year, it’s hard to ignore that the majority are FPSs. In 2011 alone we’ve already seen Bullestorm, Homefront, Portal 2 and Crysis 2 and that’s from a genre that only late last year released one of the best selling games of all time in the form Call Of Duty: Black Ops. So what is it about the FPS genre that keeps drawing players back into its world? It’d be easy to spout off a bunch pseudo psychology about avatars, empty vessels and player agency, but the truth is probably more literal. FPSs view the world like we do and therefore offer players a much more realistic interpretation of what is usually a highly surreal and fictitious serious of events.
No one can argue that Black Ops is in any way a gaming attempt at realism, but it does play around with the perception of war and how it can be manipulated. Bioshock was incredibly successful at pulling the player through its world unwillingly and it’s telling that many of the better FPSs out there don’t have empty vessels at all, but real attempts at characters for players to adopt. The Half-life series has become famous for its realistic characterisations despite having a highly unbelievable world. Gordon Freeman, though silent, is a very particular character guided by his scientific viewpoint of the world. Half-life 2 also become known for its pioneering work allowing players to manipulate the world around them and how it presented the game’s events without ever resorting to cutscenes.
By grounding the player within the avatar’s – or Gordon Freeman’s – shoes both the environment and the narrative were relayed to the player without ever breaking the fourth wall. This isn’t a conceit solely at the FPSs mercy, but it is easy to utilise and manipulate from the unique perspective it provides and perhaps that’s one of the most important reason players keep returning to the FPS. It provides an easily identifiable set of rules that spans the genre, along with controls that never really change. Does this make the FPS gaming’s most important genre or just it’s most prominent one?
The FPS has quickly evolved into one of the industries most exciting genres with some of its best games, but there is already signs of fatigue. Half-life 2, arguably the pinnacle, has yet to be usurped and the COD effect has stalled its evolution, perhaps we need to see something new from the FPS if it’s to truly become the genre of choice.